Native American Boarding Schools


Indian scholars at Chehalis Indian Reservation, 1888, State Library Photograph Collection, 1851-1990, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives.


Native American boarding schools forcibly removed children from their families and suppressed Native language, cultures and beliefs. These schools, which operated from the late 1880s to the 1960s, had a primary objective to "civilize" or assimilate Native American children.


Start with secondary sources 

Use secondary sources to gain basic knowledge of your topic, its significance, and historical context.

Ask a Librarian online at Washington State Library to get expert help in locating useful secondary sources. 


Then use primary sources

Use primary sources to deepen your understanding of the topic, and assemble evidence to support your own analysis and interpretation.

Ask an Archivist online at Washington State Archives to get expert help in locating useful primary sources.


Some key historical research questions:

  • Why were Native American children taught in boarding schools instead of their own villages?
  • What were they taught at these boarding schools?
  • What were they required to “unlearn"?
  • How were Native American children taught in these schools?
  • What long term impact did boarding schools have on Native American cultures and communities?
  • When did these schools closed and why?
  • Consider other possibilities for historical questions as you analyze and interpret this topic.


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